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Is YouTube a Reliable Source of Information About Men’s Health?

Overview: YouTube can be a useful source of information on men’s health. But remember that literally anybody can start a YouTube channel, and even well-meaning people can spread outdated medical information or be fooled by hucksters. One study concluded that the overall quality of men’s health video content was poor and needed to be improved.

Trust but Verify

Having an open, honest, mature discussion about men’s health is a good and positive thing. That YouTube both makes this information accessible and does it for free is a public good. Unfortunately, like anything free, you often get what you pay for. We found everything from well-meaning but inaccurate videos to sales pitches for questionable products thinly disguised as informational videos.

Finding Good Sources

The best place to start with YouTube videos is your doctor or a medical professional. They may have videos they hand out links to for patients to help them engage with a topic. You should also search for trusted sources on YouTube. For example, if your hospital or a local university’s medical school has a YouTube channel, that’s a good place to start.

Finally, pharmaceutical companies may also offer videos you might find useful, although they will, of course, be centered on the product.

Once you exhaust those sources, however, you might still have questions. Then it’s time to search YouTube.

To begin with, let’s talk about “reading” a YouTube search when you type in a topic. But before you click, let’s take this video as an example:

Here’s how it looks in the search results:

Causes and treatment of erectile dysfunction video Brigham and Women's Hospital

Let’s break down the results.

The Title: The title is in large type on the right-hand side of the search results. What is the video called? If it’s something mature and professional, instead of filled with slang or mocking people with ED, that’s a positive sign.

The Thumbnail: In your YouTube results, you’ll see a “thumbnail,” a still of the video either chosen automatically or by the video’s owner to reflect the content, on the left hand side. What’s in the thumbnail? Are they dressed professionally? Is a title for the presenter or a logo visible in the thumbnail confirming the evidence?

Time Posted: Even for credible videos, medicine marches on. You’ll want to find the most recent videos on a topic, a year or newer if possible. Look underneath the title to find the age of the video.

The Publisher: This is underneath the view count and the time posted. This tells you which user posted the video. Ideally, a user will have a little checkmark symbol next to their name, which means they’ve gone through the verification process and have proven their identity to YouTube’s satisfaction. Don’t assume that the name of the owner represents the organization. We’ll get to how to verify identity in more detail when we open the video.

If the name is something like Dr. John Smith, take a moment to search that name in Google, paired with your YouTube search term. In this case, it might be “Dr. John Smith erectile dysfunction.” If you don’t get any results, or you find Dr. Smith has a degree in English literature, you should move on.

Similarly, more specific medical knowledge is better. A urologist should be given more weight than a general practitioner, although for topics like the basics of a condition or the common side effects of a medication, a GP will know their stuff.

The Description: Underneath the username is a short description of the video. What’s in the description? Is it about the topic, the facility, or the user? Even somebody who wants to help may not offer as high-quality content as you might want.

Using our screen capture as an example, this seems to be from a credible source, a respected hospital in Boston, but at six years old, maybe a little out of date. We might look for a newer video from a verified hospital, but if a doctor recommended it to us, we’d watch it.

You might notice that we’ve said nothing about view count. That’s because good medical information isn’t a popularity contest. A video with one view can have better, more useful information than one with one billion views.

Now let’s open a video and see what else we can learn before we watch. For this we’ll use a video podcast posted by the Mayo Clinic a few months ago at the time of this writing:

On The Video Page

Before watching a video, pause it and look around the page.

Recommended Videos: Look to the right of the screen at the recommended videos. YouTube tends to point out videos in a similar vein in the right-hand column. If you see more videos from medical professionals and facilities on the same topic, that’s generally a positive sign. If it’s advertising “herbal Viagra” or other questionable products or information, you should probably click away.

Description: Underneath the video you’ll usually find a short block of text. Look at the whole description, including the language and the links that are included. Right-click on the link and select “open in new window” to see where the link goes. Again, what you read and see here will tell you quite a bit about the quality of the information in the video. Skip the videos trying to sell you something.

There are also “like and dislike” buttons and comments, but these are of limited value. YouTube comments are often portrayed as the least-informed and least-helpful on the internet, and sadly, it’s a portrayal that’s often deserved. Similarly, people can “dislike” a video for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with the content and whether it’s of use.

So, now that you’ve found videos you trust, it’s time to engage with them:

  • Take detailed notes with questions to ask your doctor.
  • Be sure to bookmark any videos you watch, especially ones you have questions on, to email to your doctor to discuss.
  • Check for annotations in the video that may lead to other information of use about a topic. Look in particular for scientific studies and analysis.
  • Search the user to see if they have other materials, like ebooks, blog entries, infographics, or presentations that might help answer your questions.
  • Trust your gut. If something contradicts your personal experience or what your doctor says, follow up on it and see where it leads.

The Bottom Line

You are your own best advocate for your sexual health. If you have questions about erectile dysfunction, visit the eDrugstore blog. If you would like information about ED meds such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, see our medication guide.

To set up a complimentary consultation with one of our licensed physicians about the right medication for you (and a prescription), call 1-800-467-5146 today.

Dan is a long-time freelance writer focusing on technology, science, health, and medicine, with a lifelong interest in physics, biology, and medicine. His work has taken a particular focus on scientific studies "beyond the headlines," reading the study to more closely examine the results.